education

Our Circle Time

MJ, my three year old daughter, loves to sing. She sings “Let it Go” from Disney’s Frozen and “How Far I’ll Go” from Disney’s Moana along with other Disney princess movie songs all the time. Nowadays, we are hearing MJ singing… “January, February, March and April, (sometimes May), June, July and August, September, October, November, December. Deez are da monts of da year.” Where did she learn this? From Circle Time at Mommy School!

What is Circle Time and Why do we do Circle Time?

Circle Time for us is where we sing songs and read Bible stories. I guess we do Circle Time because that’s what they do in preschool. It’s what I’ve seen the preschool I worked at do and other teacher blogs say they do. So, what’s the purpose of Circle Time? In my first and second grade classrooms we had whole group instruction where I would teach a mini lesson (okay more like a long lesson) on whatever subject to the whole class. Is Circle Time used in the same way? Is it a time to teach children academic lessons (like letters, counting, etc.) or social emotional lessons (like emotions or how to make friends)? Is it a time to have children practice sitting still for a certain amount of time? I’m not sure, but those are some of the reasons I’m incorporating Circle Time into our homeschool preschool. Another reason I’m doing it is to have our girls, three year old MJ and seven month old ER, practice going through a routine so that they know what will come next.

I did something similar to the way we are doing Circle Time now, when I was teaching first and second grade; but instead of calling it Circle Time I called it Morning Business. It was a routine we did daily (even when there was a substitute). We did the patriotic things (national anthem, pledge, and Hawaii state anthem), school song, calendar, lunch menu, homework and announcements. It was helpful for me because once the students knew what to do, they could run Morning Business and that gave me time to do attendance, finish checking binders, reading and responding to notes from parents, and whatever else we had to do or came up. (This isn’t really relevant to this post, but oh well. To note, I was always listening in to what they were doing and there to step in if needed.) I think it was helpful for the students because it gave them a sense of independence and ownership in the classroom where they could do something on their own and in their own way without Mrs. telling them what to do (but of course still monitored). This is what I’m hoping for for our girls. I want them to be able to have some independence and ownership in their learning so they will enjoy it.

What do we do during Circle Time?

Our circle time is pretty simple. We stick to singing the same songs and going through a weekly Bible song and story. Most of the songs I use are very short videos I have found on YouTube. The Bible stories are also videos on YouTube from the The Holy Tales series. I like these videos because they are short videos (less than five minutes which is good for the little ones attention span) and they always start the same (which is good routine practice so the girls will know what to expect) and have a question to answer at the end (some of them are hard for MJ but it’s great comprehension practice).

I created an electronic “flip chart” to help guide us through circle time. (I’m very forgetful so having the chart helps a lot!) I created the flip chart using ActivInspire which is the software used with Promethean boards (interactive whiteboards). I would always make and use flip charts in my classrooms at the elementary level (Yes I had a Promethean board in my classroom!) and I thought why not use it in my homeschool too. The only negative is I don’t have a Promethean or other interactive board at home (boo). But it’s all good because we just use the computer and it works just as well. I could have chosen to do a PowerPoint, but I like the “interactive” part of the flip chart where we could mark up the page and move things around. MJ seems to enjoy it because she’s always wanting to help me press the buttons.

IMG_7892
Pictures of the pages on our interactive flip chart. The YouTube videos are linked to the corresponding page and will automatically play (after the ads). (*at the end of the post I cite where I got these nice images to use on my flip chart)

This is the order we follow (or at least try to follow):

  1. Circle Time song
  2. Months of the Year song
  3. Days of the Week song
  4. Yesterday was, today is, tomorrow will be… (We move the words to above the appropriate day)
  5. Calendar (We count to the number date as we add the number(s) and then go over the date – day, month, number date, year for ex. Wednesday, April 19, 2017)
  6. Weather song and weather report (MJ checks the weather by looking out the window and we choose from the options and move it to the day)
  7. Alphabet song
  8. Numbers (1-20) song
  9. Colors song (no video, I came up with the song. Lyrics at the end of post.)
  10. Shapes song (no video, I came up with the song. Lyrics at the end of post.)
  11. Bible story song for the week
  12. Bible story video for the week (from The Holy Tales series)
  13. Read the Bible story from a “The Beginners Bible” book (pictured below)
  14. Read books with the girls
beginners bible
“The Beginners Bible” book we use.

How is it going?

Our Circle Time is going alright. We don’t have a set preschool schedule so there is no set time for Circle Time, we try to fit it in whenever we remember. We don’t do Circle Time daily, although that’s the goal. Sometimes I try to make it formal where I have MJ sit down (which doesn’t work very well, we are working on it) and other times informal where we do Circle Time anywhere (at the dining table or in the car or outside. We even invite “friends” to join us like how you see MJ getting her puzzle friends ready in the feature photo). Sometimes we get through everything on the list without a fuss and other times we cut short some of the songs or skip songs altogether. Sometimes I lead Circle Time and other times MJ wants to lead and be the teacher. We don’t always use the flip chart. At this point I’m just trying to go through the songs with the girls so we are doing it whenever wherever however we like. Eventually we will do formal Circle Time so MJ and ER can practice sitting still for a period of time.

IMG_7895
This day, MJ decided she wanted to color in her Moana coloring book halfway through the Bible story (hense the need for some formal Circle times to practice sitting still.)

It’s pretty cool because I’m noticing MJ doing Circle Time on her own. I have posters of the things we go over up on our wall and she’ll get her Elmo pointer and start singing and pointing to the posters. I’m amazed at how quickly she picked up some of the songs (like the months of the year) and the routine. But I guess I shouldn’t be because children learn and can remember a lot through singing. (I still use the States song I learned in elementary school to remember all the states in alphabetical order.)

IMG_7894
MJ helping point to the letters as we sing the alphabet song during Circle Time. As you can see we still need to practice our letters.

We’re going to continue Circle Time the way we are doing it now for the remainder of the school year and then switch to a more formal Circle Time this coming school year. Hopefully MJ will be a little (or a lot) more ready for it and ER will be on a more predictable schedule. (Our days are pretty hectic because I’m going off of baby ER’s timing. I’m still nursing her on demand so yeah. It’s not the best, but it’s what’s working for us now.)

I guess this is one thing I miss about being in the classroom. The students had each other as models, so I could point out and reward appropriate sitting behavior. MJ doesn’t have models, although sometimes I do point out how well ER is sitting in her bouncer and paying attention and she should do the same. (Crazy I know. ER has no choice, she can’t go anywhere. 😂)

How do you or your preschool children do Circle Time?

Below are the lyrics to the color and shape songs I came up with. I guess all those years working at the summer camp paid off. We had to come up with songs to different themes on the fly. (Kind of like on the show “Whose Line is it Anyway?”) It would be nice to have a video of the songs, but I am not a singer and not very techie. If you would like to help me make one that would be… AWESOME!

Colors Song Lyrics (to the tune of “Where is Thumbkin” or “Frere Jacques”)

Red, Orange, Yellow, Green (2x)

Blue, Purple, Gray, and Black (2x)

Brown and Pink and White (2x)

That’s our colors (2x)

Shapes Song Lyrics (to the tune of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”)

Circle, Triangle

Diamond and Rectangle (3x)

Circle, Triangle, Diamond and Rectangle

Those are our shapes.

Square, Oval

Heart and Star (3x)

Square, Oval, Heart and Star

Those are our shapes.

*I cannot take credit for the images on our flip chart pages. So I will do my best to cite where I found them.

2017 calendar from here

Weather images from here

Weather song poster from here

Alphabet poster from here

Number poster from here

Basic colors poster from here

Shapes poster from here

***Schedule for posts***

I apologize but for now I’m going to be on a three week rotation for my posts until I can get more efficient with my writing and some sort of schedule. My goal is to post a piece in each of my interest areas once a week which that means I’ll be writing three pieces a week. (Yikes it takes me a week to write one piece 😳)

next week (5/1): health post (in progress)

5/8: creativity post (in the planning stage)

5/15: education post (got an idea 💡)

5/22: health post (not there yet)

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